Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the US. This group of eye disorders affects more than 3 million Americans, most of whom are age 40 or older. The risk of glaucoma goes up as you age, and high eye pressure is a strong factor. Glaucoma rarely causes symptoms during its early stages, which may explain why up to 75% of people with glaucoma are undiagnosed.
The board-certified team of ophthalmologists at Suburban Eye Associates want you to know the risk factors for glaucoma so you can protect your vision. Scheduling and attending routine eye exams is one of the best ways to maintain your eyesight. Regular exams are especially vital if you’re at risk for eye diseases such as glaucoma. That’s why our experts have compiled some useful information to raise awareness of glaucoma’s risk factors and encourage you to take action to protect your vision.
The term glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve — responsible for sending visual information to the brain. Left untreated, the ongoing damage to the optic nerve caused by glaucoma leads to vision loss, and eventually, blindness.
There are multiple forms of glaucoma, and each damages the optic nerve in a different way. High eye pressure causes the most common type — open-angle glaucoma. In fact, high eye pressure causes 90% of glaucoma cases.
In most cases, glaucoma develops gradually. Without regular eye exams to track your eye health, it’s easy to miss the disease during the early stages. When you have open-angle glaucoma, your eye pressure increases slowly as you age. Since you’re unlikely to have symptoms initially, it’s crucial to have regular eye checks with your doctor.
Know the risk factors for open-angle glaucoma
Preventive health care is key to staying well. It’s easy to skip checkups with your doctor when you feel fine and your vision is good. It’s wise to know the risk factors of serious eye diseases such as glaucoma, though, so you can take special care to keep track of your vision health.
Fluid inside each eye creates pressure that helps the eye hold its shape. As your eyes create new fluid, they drain old fluid through canals in the corners of your eyes, a process that maintains the optimal amount of fluid and pressure inside your eyes.
Open-angle glaucoma develops when the drainage canals become clogged, gradually increasing the amount of fluid inside the eye. This increase in pressure damages the optic nerve over time.
These risk factors raise your chances of developing glaucoma:
High eye pressure
High eye pressure is the result of:
- Eye injury
- Impaired fluid drainage
- Overproduction of fluid
- Long-term use of steroid medications
Several eye conditions can also increase eye pressure.
Family history of glaucoma
Open-angle glaucoma is hereditary. If a first-degree relative (parent, sibling) has glaucoma, you’re at risk of developing glaucoma yourself.
African American race
Glaucoma is four times higher in African Americans compared to those of European descent, and tends to develop earlier (starting at age 40).
You’re more likely to develop glaucoma if you’re age 60 and older.
Other risk factors
There are other possible issues that can increase your likelihood of glaucoma, such as:
- Thin cornea
- Severe nearsightedness
- Poor blood circulation
- High or low blood pressure
You can’t change many of the top risk factors for glaucoma, but if you know you’re at risk, you can take steps to monitor your eye health. During regular eye exams, we check your eye pressure and, if we notice increased pressure, we recommend the appropriate treatment to slow the disease and protect your eyesight.
To learn more about glaucoma, and for all of your other eye care needs, call us at Suburban Eye Associates or schedule an appointment online with one of our eye experts.